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How To Make Indian Restaurant Curry Sauce

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This curry house style base curry sauce will get you the results you’re looking for!

Visit the kitchen of any busy curry house and you are almost certain to see a large saucepan of curry sauce/gravy simmering away on the stove. This sauce is used as a base for most of the restaurant’s curries.

Each restaurant has their own special recipe but they are usually quite similar. The base sauce makes it possible for chefs to cook, plate and serve many different curries quickly and easily.

This smooth base curry sauce is just one of the things that give British Indian restaurant (BIR) style curries their distinctive flavour and texture that is loved by so many.

Curry House style curry gravy

Large batches of curry sauce are made daily at Indian restaurants around the UK.

Why use a base sauce?

The answer to this question is simple. It’s the only way you will achieve authentic and perfect curry house style curries at home.

Cooking curries in a more authentic Indian style works but the end dish is different. Curry house style curries are famous for their smooth texture which is achieved using the base curry sauce.

If you decide not to make the base curry sauce, which really is so easy, you might like to opt for my new one pan, no base restaurant style curries but I do hope you give the base sauce versions a try first. 

How was the base curry sauce developed?

The base sauce was developed over time. Chefs at inexpensive curry houses needed a way of cooking and serving their curries fast, while not losing out on flavour.

Cooking the curries in a more authentic and traditional way just wouldn’t be possible in most restaurants as it would be too labour intensive, overly time consuming and not cost effective.

By using this convenient sauce, which is made at restaurants fresh, daily, the chefs can cook a curry in about ten minutes.

That’s why you can expect to pay a lot less at a curry house than one of the more upmarket Indian restaurants.


What exactly is the base curry sauce?

I like to describe the base curry sauce as a fancy vegetable stock. It doesn’t have a lot of flavour though it does taste good.

Add some chicken, cumin, garam masala, a large heap or two of chili powder, mango chutney and a few other ingredients and you’ve got yourself a chicken madras.

Keep the chilli powder to a minimum and add some cream, block coconut, rose water and a dusting of cardamom powder and voila… a fragrant chicken korma.

Can I see what the difference is between a curry made with base curry sauce and one made without?

The best way to compare is to make the same curry twice. Make one with the base sauce and make the other using more traditional methods.

Below I have a couple of examples for you.

chicken balti

Chicken balti made without base sauce.

The chicken Balti above was made using authentic cooking methods. You can try the recipe here.

It was delicious but a lot different to one made with a base sauce, using what are otherwise the same ingredients.

chicken balti

Chicken Balti cooked with base sauce. This is by far my favourite version.

Above is an authentic balti using a base sauce. As you can see, the colour and texture of the sauce are different. I have to say, it tastes a lot better too.

By the way, if cooking a real balti with base sauce is of interest to you, you will find plenty of authentic balti recipes here

How to store the base curry sauce

Although I do have smaller recipes for base curry sauce, I always recommend making this large batch, just like they do at most curry houses.

The finished base sauce can be stored in the fridge for at least three days and it freezes very well.

When you first blend the sauce. it will be quite thick. This is the best time to portion it out and freeze it.

To use in your curries, however, the sauce needs to be diluted with water or stock until it is quite thin like full fat milk or single cream.

Unlike water or stock, the base sauce cooks down and becomes thick quite quickly when used in a curry. There are so many vegetables in it.

What size containers should I freeze the base sauce in?

That’s really up to you and how you wish to use it.

Most of the recipe in my books and on this blog that call for base curry sauce serve 4. These recipe call for anything between 500ml (2 cups) and 700ml (2 3/4 cups) of base sauce. That’s the diluted sauce!

So if you want to have enough sauce to cook a curry for four at the ready, I recommend freezing the sauce, before diluting it in portions of 350ml (1 3/4 cups).

That said, I also have a lot of recipes for curry house portions of my recipes on this site. These call for between 250ml and 300ml of base sauce and serve 1 – 2 people.

If you are just going to be cooking for yourself or one other person, you could try them here.

What sort of containers shall I use to freeze the sauce in?

I often use air-tight plastic containers. They are handy and easy.

If you are limited on freezer space, try using freezer bags.

Add the sauce in the amount you wish to a freezer bag and seal it. Then flatten it out. You can then stack them in your freezer to use as needed.

Be sure to heat the base sauce up before using.

You need to defrost and then heat the base sauce up before using in your curries.

You don’t want to add cold base sauce to your curries while cooking as it will cool the pan down too much.

Just heat it up in a pan next to where you are cooking your curry and add as required.

The amount of base sauce I used in your recipe was more/less than called for. Why is this?

At busy curry houses, the chef doesn’t use exact measures of base sauce.

If the curry is looking too dry, he will add more base sauce.

If it is looking too saucy, he will just cook it down to his preferred consistency.

Please use the suggested measures of base sauce as a guide. They are not in stone as many different things such as the heat of your pan and how many ingredients are in the pan can affect the amount of sauce you will need.

Stay tuned for all the upcoming recipes. Together with this sauce you will be able to create curries better than you’ll find at most restaurants. I guarantee it!

One you make your base curry sauce and prepare a curry, you might like to serve a few sides.

If you’d like to make this curry into a feast, you’ve come to the right place. You could just go for a side of rice and I have some popular rice recipes for you here.

If you’d like to make naans or chapatis, you will find what you’re looking for here.

Want to start your curry feast meal off with a bang? How about fried shop bought poppadoms or if you’re feeling ambitious, make your own poppadoms from scratch and serve them with coriander chutney, red onion chutney, and/or tamarind chutney.

Here are a few curry house style recipes you can use this sauce in now!

Hugely popular, you really can’t go wrong trying a Chicken Tikka Masala!

If you like a sweet and mild curry, Chicken Korma could be what you’re looking for.

Looking for something on the spicy side? Give Lamb Vindaloo  or Chicken Madras a go.

There are many curry house curries that are usually served with a medium heat and Chicken Dhansak Chicken Chilli Garlic, Chicken Patia, Lamb Bhuna, Chicken Chasni and Lamb Rogan Josh or all delicious.

Don’t forget the onion bhajis to help make your curry into a feast!

Do you have to make so much base sauce?

No. You might to if you have freezer space though because the base sauce freezes well and is nice to have on hand for that last minute curry takeaway craving. In my book The Curry Guy Bible, you will find both small and large batches.

You can always use my small batch version, but if you really want to achieve that authentic curry house and/or balti house flavour, you’ve got to go large.

Step by step photos.

Note: In the photographs below you will find two photos demonstrating adding ghee to this recipe. These are photos from an earlier version of this recipe.

It is done at many restaurants but I no longer add it. It is tasty though. Simply melt 250ml ghee and add about a tsp turmeric as in the photos. Pour this over the sauce and stir it in. This is of course optional but many chefs do it.

Making BIR curry sauce

Check out this photo and copy it. Your sauce will be perfect. Only use about half of the cabbage. Any cabbage will do.

Making curry sauce

Fry your onions over low heat in the hot oil for about 30 minutes.

Making BIR curry sauce

Your onions should look like this when you add the next ingredients.

Making BIR curry sauce

The spices – cumin, coriander, garam masala, fenugreek and turmeric

Making BIR curry sauce

Toss in the rest of your vegetables and stir into the onions.

Making BIR curry sauce

Add the garlic and ginger and stir it in.

Does it matter which order you add the ingredients?

Not really. I tend to add them as you see above so that I can fry the onions first. It is after all an onion base.

Other than that, just throw everything in the pot. That’s what they do at busy curry houses.


Making BIR curry sauce

Now stir in the tomatoes

Making BIR curry sauce

In go the spices except for the turmeric

Making BIR curry sauce

It’s coming along just perfectly.

Making BIR curry sauce

Add enough boiling water to cover and simmer for 20 – 30 minutes.

Making BIR curry sauce

Time to blend.

Making BIR curry sauce

After about three minutes of blending, the base curry sauce should look like this.

How smooth should I blend the sauce?

That depends on what you are using to blend it.

I usually use a hand held blender which takes about three to four minutes to blend until silky smooth. That’s what you want.

I have also use a Nutri-bullet which is a lot quicker but you have to transfer all that sauce to it. That can be a bit fussy. Go for a hand held blender if you have one. 

Making BIr curry sauce

In another pan, melt your ghee and then add the turmeric.

Making BIR curry sauce

Add the turmeric and ghee to the sauce and stir in.

Do you have to use a base sauce for curry house curries?

One thing wonder is whether or not you have to use a base curry sauce in your curry house style curries. The answer is yes if you want your curries to be just like you get them at your favourite restaurant.

That said, if you just want a good curry and don’t have time to whip up a batch of base curry sauce, you could do it the authentic Indian way. You can do just that using these one pan curry house style recipes. 

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How To Make Indian Restaurant Curry Sauce

Instant base sauce

Take some time to make this base curry sauce. Once it's made and you have it on hand, you can whip up all your favourite curry house style curries in minutes! From the mildest korma to the spiciest phaal, this is the base you need to make them just like you get at Indian restaurants.

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 20 minutes


  • 10 large cooking onions – finely sliced
  • 250ml vegetable oil
  • 9 tablespoons garlic/ginger paste (equal amounts garlic and ginger blended into a paste with a little water.)
  • 1 carrot - peeled and chopped
  • ¼ head of cabbage - chopped
  • 1 red capsicum (bell pepper) - diced
  • 1 green capsicum (bell pepper) - diced
  • water
  • 400ml (14 US fluid ounces ) chopped tomatoes
  • 4 tablespoons ghee (clarified butter)
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala powder
  • 1 tablespoon cumin powder
  • 1 tablespoon coriander powder
  • 1 tablespoon fenugreek powder
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon turmeric
  • Salt and pepper to taste (I usually leave this out and simply add it to the final dish)


  1. Pour the oil into a large heavy bottomed saucepan and heat over medium high heat until bubbling.
  2. Throw in the sliced onions and fry, stirring regularly for about 20 minutes until the onions are soft, lightly browned and translucent.
  3. Add the capsicums (bell peppers), carrot and cabbage and stir to combine.
  4. Fry for a further five minutes and then add the ginger and garlic purees and the all of the spices except for the turmeric.
  5. Now add the tomatoes and just enough water (about 2 cups/ 500ml) to cover the vegetables and simmer for about half an hour.
  6. After 30 minutes, remove the mixture from the heat and allow to cool slightly.
  7. Scoop the mixture in batches into a blender and blend until silky smooth. I usually do this for about three minutes per batch. If you have a hand held blender, this stage will be much easier.
  8. Once your sauce is smooth, melt the ghee in a frying pan. Add the turmeric powder to the ghee. It will darken as it cooks. You want to brown it for about 30 seconds being careful not to burn the turmeric.
  9. Now add the turmeric/ghee mixture to the sauce and bring to a simmer again.
  10. Once it is bubbling away, turn down the heat and simmer for a further 20 to 30 minutes
  11. Use immediately or store in the fridge for up to three days or freeze in 750ml (3 cups) portions for up to three months.


This base sauce freezes really well. It is great to have on hand for that last minute curry craving.

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Sunday 24th of March 2024

How many cups of base does this recipe make?

Dan Toombs

Saturday 30th of March 2024

This should make approximately 2 litres of it. Thanks Dan


Thursday 22nd of February 2024

Hi Dan.. First off thanks so much for sharing all your knowledge and experience. Diving in head first and loving it! Just one question regarding the base sauce.. if I have only six large onions do I leave everything else as is or should I scale all the other ingredients down accordingly? Many thanks,


Dan Toombs

Saturday 24th of February 2024

Just leave as is, the recipe is not an exact science. it’s fine to use what you have. Thanks very much. Dan

Stephen Votadini

Sunday 4th of February 2024

Hi Dan.

I used to make a similar version of this in my 20’s (I’m now in my 60’s) using a book by Pat Chapman called Favourite Indian Restaurant Curries. I think I’ll pick up the mantle again and try your version, it sounds very appealing.

Dan Toombs

Friday 9th of February 2024

Yes Pat Chapman was innovative in his day. Hope you enjoy my version. Thanks Dan


Tuesday 14th of November 2023

Hi there going to make this as my first curry for the family, I can’t see where it says how much this base sauce makes? As I need to make enough for 5 then use the base for a masala, any help appreciated!

Dan Toombs

Sunday 19th of November 2023

I don’t state an exact quantity but there will easily be enough for what you want to do. Dilute the finished base sauce with water when you’re ready to make each curry so it is the approximate consistency of full fat milk. You can also freeze it, 200 ml in each bag then once you dilute it this will be more than enough for one curry.


Sunday 22nd of October 2023

Hi Dan, This recipe looks great. One question - is it 9 table spoons of garlic paste and 9 table spoons of ginger paste? Or 4.5 / 4.5?

Thanks Chris.

Dan Toombs

Tuesday 24th of October 2023

It’s 9 tablespoons of combined garlic and ginger paste. Thanks Dan

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